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Education: Who is to be blamed?

by Abraham Smith

‘I am to blame if I don’t do what I can’

Many times lately we have heard, “Our children are not getting a good education.” Parents have been blamed, children, teachers, administrators and our government. Just exactly who is to blame? I am to blame, if I don’t do what I can.

Jesus said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).

I must ask myself, “What can I do regardless of what others do or don’t do?”

Being part of the team

A few years ago, some older children were picking on my twin sons. I decided to spend an entire day at their school. It has been one of the most positive experiences I have ever had. Just by sitting in on my sons’ classroom, I learned the effect I had on so many things.

One of the boys’ teachers used me in her reading groups. Another teacher told me “that for some strange reason,” her students seemed to behave better when I was there. They liked my going to P.E. with them. I was their visitor.

I discovered I was able to affect my sons’ educational environment.

Once, I decided to order pizzas for their class. But I only told them earlier in the week that if they did well, I would have a surprise for them on Friday. I told them that only with their teacher’s permission would they get it.

Another strange thing happened. When I wasn’t there, this teacher would say to her class when they were loud, “If you don’t be quiet, I’m going to tell Mr. Smith not to bring that surprise.” And they instantly got quiet.

I did not go to the school to be disruptive, criticize or even to give a lot of advice. I was there to support their learning. I think my being this way made it easier for her to teach. She did not feel as though she was under a microscope.

I let her know she had my support. I realized she was not perfect, but neither am I. Because we were in such close contact, there was no room for any misunderstandings. These teachers, their classes and I were a team.

You can make a difference

As we are all part of the community, there is something we can do to improve the education of the children in our sphere of influence. It may be, however, that we are often at a loss at exactly how or what to do.

I found myself in this situation some years ago. I offered my services to tutor high school students in math as I had done with college students of my own age range.

On particular high school student at Meridian High School did not show up for the first tutoring session, so I told one of the assistant principals. I asked if there were any other students who needed tutoring. He was disappointed the student did not show up and said he would talk to him. I told him that it was unnecessary to talk to the student.

My attitude, of which I am now ashamed, was that if he did not want the help, just give me students (like the self motivated students of my own age group) who did.

But the principal taught me a lesson for which I am very grateful. He told me, “Abraham, I have found out that sometimes in order to educate, you have to motivate.”

The principal talked to the student. And because of that conversation, I began the tutoring session. It was another enjoyable experience. The student’s geometry teacher and his grandparents were very delighted to have my assistance.

Here was another team effort: the principal who provided the motivation for the student, the teacher who told me what the student needed to work on, his guardians who provided constant support and encouragement and me, his tutor.

Everyone has something to offer

Experiences like these teach us there is something for all of us to do to help influence the education of those within our sphere of influence. Even though we may not do the teaching, we can be useful by encouraging the students, teachers, or anyone else involved.

We should be thankful to teachers and administrators who have the proper attitude: An attitude of expectation of good results, patience, caring, giving, abundant love for the students and a sensitive ear to hear special circumstances in their lives.

No matter the circumstances, students need to be encouraged to do their best.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). We please the Lord when we do our best! Loving the Lord will motivate us to obey the scripture.

We often need the assistance of others to accomplish our task. But we must focus primarily upon what we can do. Jesus’ asked, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”

And I have a plank in my eye if I am continually criticizing others for their failures and will not consider my own failures or potential improvements.

Whether we are a teacher, student, parent, administrator, community member, or relative, let’s remember the words of Solomon long ago. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).